TV shows spotlight a contemporary female perspective

by Brian Burns
There was a time when every woman on TV was perpetually waiting at the door for her breadwinning husband, while dinner warmed in the oven. Now, that picture of Leave it to Beaver domesticity is strictly relegated to TV Land. The old checklist of female clichés (love interest, housewife, etc.) is falling by the wayside, being stomped out by more nuanced, honestly portrayed women. For evidence of this new alteration, look no further than the new fall TV season. But while women are being promoted to seats of power, men are suffering a downgrade, weakened by the oncoming flood of girl-powered programming.
Funny female stars are quickly becoming a network-TV staple. Stand-up comedian Whitney Cummings is the latest, with her self-titled NBC show, Whitney. The premise, another entry in the as-old-as-time relationship genre, isn’t exactly revolutionary. Nevertheless, as creator and star, Cummings brings both laughs and a fresh perspective.
Indie film darling Zooey Deschanel lends her patented brand of adorable to New Girl, from No Strings Attached writer Elizabeth Meriwether. She stars as Jess, who moves in with a trio of dudes after a brutal dumping. Deschanel is a ball of comic energy, bouncing around the screen and occasionally breaking into song.
Kat Dennings is less cutesy and more firecracker in 2 Broke Girls. Her character Max, a waitress with snark to spare, embodies the theme of so many shows centered around women this season: independence. Max, a modern, do-it-yourself woman, doesn’t need a man in her life to lean on. She kicks her deadbeat boyfriend to the curb before the credits roll on the first episode.
ABC is wooing Mad Men fans with a new show set in the ’60s, when few had even heard of debt ceilings. Pan Am, follows the pilots of the legendary airline, but focuses on the stewardesses who use their job as a bridge to higher- quality lives and new freedoms.
For its Mad Men copycat, NBC had armed The Playboy Club with more bunny ears and sex appeal than you can shake a fluffy tail at. It also tried to sell itself as female empowerment fodder, but that was the farthest thing from peoples’ minds when the show’s title popped up on the TV screen. No wonder the show was canceled after three episodes.
In both campy and more dramatic fare, girls are staking their claim on crime fighting. This would seem to be reversing a long-held trend in TV cop shows. “A lot of times, shows start off with one or two females in power, and then they filter them out or kill them off,” said senior Jennifer Denman.
Fighting through the glut of these male-dominated procedurals was the remake of Charlie’s Angels. The all-girl spy team resurrected to kick ass in a new decade. Unlike its predecessor, the show did not last. It, too, was recently canceled.
A far cry from the unsmudged makeup of Angels is Prime Suspect, starring a rough ‘n tumble Maria Bello. She may react differently than an Angel to a broken nail, but both shows demonstrate the growing acceptance of women as more than simply the partner.
The other side of the female energy running through this fall’s new shows is the downfall of men, who are struggling to retain their masculinity in a woman’s world. Tim Allen marks his return to TV with the appropriately titled Last Man Standing, a half-hour laugher about the struggles of real men out there. Tired rants about men receiving manicures are guaranteed. Some students are growing tired of the number of modern-day cavemen on TV. “It’s like an overused joke,” said freshman Philip Tice.
For the longest time, the gender scales have been tipped toward the men. Now, girls might have a monopoly on the TV screen. Considering how they have been wronged in the past, that seems only fair.